Artists stand for LGBT rights

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Janet Jackson
Janet Jackson

Enrique Iglesias and Pitbull, who toured together in years past, teamed up again for Enrique Iglesias and Pitbull Live! What was noticeably different this time was their prominent inclusion of LGBT rights during their performance at Newark’s Prudential Center.

Despite recently becoming a father of twins with longtime girlfriend Anna Kournikova, Enrique Iglesias intentionally chose to bring a gay fanboy on stage to serenade and even share drinks. Additional speeches of support and encouragement, which included LGBT mentions and references, were made throughout his portion of the show. This was one of the best shows for the King of Latin Pop as he provided stellar performances of all his classics both in English and Spanish including “Bailamos,” “Hero,” “Be With You,” “Escape” and the closer, “I Like It.”

Imagine Dragons on stage
Imagine Dragons on stage

Pitbull, whose high-energy showcase took the evening from a sexy affair to a rave with powerhouse performances à la “Feel This Moment,” “Hotel Room Service” and “Time of Our Lives,” made an effort during his inspirational speeches in between sets to take on the political alt-right’s attack on LGBT rights. In fact, Mr. 305 touched upon all minority groups for whom he is fundraising and are not on Donald Trump’s radar: “It is fucked up that I can send a plane quicker to these hurricane-ravaged cities quicker than the president can. He is a mother-fucking billionaire—he should be able to send all the private planes in the country down there to carry our supplies and get our people help. With that said it is very simple. There is nothing that can knock us down, nothing that can make us feel sorry for ourselves, nothing that can make us feel like victims; all this does is make us stronger and show the whole world how we get up and fight — with or without the President’s support.”

Imagine Dragons made the premise of their Evolve World Tour, closing out the North American leg of the tour at the Prudential Center, on literally “evolving” as a society focusing heavily on the disconcerting political and social climate as regards to LGBT bullying and other social injustices including homophobia, youth suicide and racism. Lead vocalist Dan Reynolds gave empowering speeches when performing the band’s biggest hits, rallying for acceptance “Across the world…we will not be divided” prior to performing “It’s Time”; going in depth on the “Stigmatization upon depression, anxiety and therapists… I suffer from clinical depression and it did not hold me back from achieving what I have” prior to “Demons”; and making a poignant statement on the need for “Equality for all…Let us continue to evolve” before closing out the show with “Radioactive.”

It is important to note that of all the major-artist shows of the season, Imagine Dragons’ was by far the most vocal in their support of suppressed groups, and with that, the crowd was the most interactive of all the major shows of the year, leaving the impression that the voice for the LGBT community is louder than the voice against it.

Janet Jackson
Janet Jackson

Janet Jackson and her State of the World Tour stood out as the set list consisted primarily of all hits while also housing a strong and intimate message, two factors her tours of years past have considerably lacked. The LGBT icon was back with a vengeance as she opened up her show at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall with a visual collage of news reports and statistics concerning the Syrian death counts, the starvation epidemic in Africa, the high levels of greenhouse gases, police brutality in conjunction with shootings of unarmed black men and the plethora of hate groups throughout the United States before kicking off with “The Knowledge” / “State of the World.”

Despite having given birth just under a year before going on tour, the diva was back in shape looking better than ever, dancing to highly choreographed numbers “Nasty,” “Feedback” and “If.” Despite having received criticism in the past for lip-syncing too frequently, Jackson sang live for a majority of the show, and during “What About,” a song based on her own experience with domestic violence, Jackson broke down in tears, stating “This is the [real] me.” As the show came to a close, Jackson wished blessings for her fans and encouraged love to unite everyone in these times of uncertainty.

As with Iglesias, Pitbull and Imagine Dragons, Jackson was another major artist whose tour took an alternative, less commercial and more serious approach, dedicated to bringing significant attention to LGBT and minority issues during a year in which our own President and subsequent political leaders have chosen to ignore and attack the LGBT community. In retrospect, the year’s events forced those whose voices have more clout to finally speak up when they too recognized that our own leadership in Washington may be in question.